Live Nation pre-sues fake Coldplay merch sellers
Live Nation’s merchandising division has filed lawsuits in Boston against unnamed companies and individuals it believes will infringe on Coldplay’s trademarks when the band perform at the Gillette Stadium this Friday.
The litigation is an attempt by Live Nation Merchandise to persuade those who counterfeit and sell band t-shirts, posters and other merch to refrain from doing so at the 4 August gig in the city.
“This complaint will be amended when their true names and capacities are ascertained.”
The corporation has filed papers against John Does 1-100, Jane Does 1-100 and XYZ Company, stating that the true names of those who infringe on the band’s rights will become public knowledge once they are identified in the vicinity of the concert. Those accused of hawking the fake goods are being sued “under fictitious names because their true names and capacities are unknown at this time,” states the company in court papers. “This complaint will be amended when their true names and capacities are ascertained.”
Live Nation is seeking monetary damages as well as the destruction of all infringing merchandise, according to the lawsuit. It notes that as the promoter of the band’s A Head Full of Dreams tour, it has the exclusive right to use Coldplay’s trademarks “in the vicinity of the group’s concerts on the group’s present North American concert tour,” hinting that similar court papers could be filed across the continent as the 23-date stadium tour rolls out over the next ten weeks.
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Stage fire halts Spanish Tomorrowland festival
More than 22,000 fans were evacuated safely from an EDM festival in Spain at the weekend, after fire destroyed part of the main stage.
Held in the Parc de Can Zam, in the Barcelona suburb of Santa Coloma de Gramenet, the one-day festival, on 29 July, was part of the Unite with Tomorrowland series of international events, which linked music fans in Israel, Lebanon, Malta, South Korean, Germany and the United Arab Emirates with the flagship Tomorrowland gathering in Belgium. An eighth event in Taiwan was cancelled because of a typhoon.
The cause of the fire is under investigation but eye witnesses reported seeing pyrotechnics setting light to a bank of speakers.
Despite some criticism from fans on the site in Spain, who claimed that no professionals were on hand to marshal the evacuation, nobody was injured in the incident, although local reports say that some people were treated for anxiety.
“Authorities will follow up and continue the investigation with the local Spanish organiser of Unite.”
Organisers immediately moved to reassure fans that they would be fully reimbursed for the cost of their tickets in addition to any balances remaining on their cashless payment wristbands.
In a statement, the local promoters said, “Thanks to the professional intervention of the authorities all 22.000 visitors were evacuated safely and without reports of injuries. Authorities will follow up and continue the investigation with the local Spanish organiser of Unite.”
Building on the massive international success of Tomorrowland, the Unite events allow fans in other territories to experience the main festival through live broadcasts and “synchronised special effects with the show in Belgium”.
The Spanish event was scheduled to end at 3am with a headline set by superstar DJ Steve Aoki. Firefighters had the blaze under control within about half an hour, but because of the possibility of the stage collapsing, the event was cancelled at 10.15pm local time.
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Green Music Initiative certifies eight new venues
Boosting the number of venues that have received the award to more than 50, Germany’s Green Music Initiative recently presented eight live venues with its Green Club Label to mark their commitment to energy efficiency.
Representatives from Domicil (500-cap.) in Dortmund, Zeche Carl (550-cap.) in Essen, Pension Schmidt in Münster, Utopiastadt in Wuppertal and Cologne venues Gebäude 9 (500-cap.), Artheater (400-cap.), Klubbar King Georg and Stadtgarten (400-cap.) joined Green Music Initiative founder Jacob Bilabel to receive the accreditation, which should see them make significant savings in the future.
“People think they will have to make big adjustments, but that’s not true,” he explains. “We use the strapline ‘Bright, Colourful, Loud’ to describe the programme.
“On average, venues can generate 15–25% savings in their energy use”
“It’s all about common-sense things like looking at your refrigerators and turning off lights when they’re not needed, but on average, venues can generate 15–25% savings in their energy use.”
While, in Germany, the ministry for the environment provides funding to help participating venues, Bilabel says equivalent programmes are popping up across Europe, with Julie’s Bicycle in the UK tapping into Arts Council funding and organisations elsewhere exploring similar green schemes.
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Pokémon Go developer hit with suit over “flop” fest
Niantic, the developer of popular mobile game Pokémon Go, has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit after its inaugural Pokémon Go Fest was beset by technical problems that left many attendees unable to play the game.
The one-day festival, which took place last Saturday in Chicago’s Grant Park (known as the venue for Lollapalooza), was organised by Niantic as fan gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of Pokémon Go’s launch, and drew sponsorship from telcos Spring and Boost Mobile.
Tickets were priced at US$20 (although, predictably, many were being sold for much more on the usual resale sites), with around 20,000 people believed to have attended.
While the festival started relatively smoothly, it soon became clear that local mobile networks were not up to the task of accommodating 20,000 people trying to connect to the game simultaneously, and the mood in the park quickly turned ugly.
Eurogamer’s Matthew Reynolds, who was at the festival, writes:
By the time proceedings officially kicked off and were being streamed on Twitch to fans around the world, I couldn’t even get a phone signal – and nor could anyone else. I struggled to send simple SMS messages (remember those?) to keep the team back home abreast of what was happening. For an event entirely dependent on everyone having an internet connection, it was nothing short of a catastrophe.
Within the 90 minutes from early doors to the opening ceremony, the mood had turned sour. Though Niantic were quick to assure crowds they were looking into the connection issues, it wasn’t enough. CEO John Hanke was booed as he walked on stage, while brash heckles and chants of “fix our game” rang out as bubbly presenters did their best to keep the show going. It was uncomfortable viewing, and later scenes were uglier still. A water bottle was thrown at one of the on-stage presenters – the unwelcome outcome of a disappointed few’s emotions boiling over.
Niantic largely blamed mobile carriers, with Hanke saying most of the problems were due to “over-saturation of the mobile data networks of some network providers”, and refunded all attendees, as well as gifting in-game credit and a free legendary Pokémon.
“Had my client known he would spend the majority of the event waiting in lines and unable to play the game, he would have stayed in California”
This, says lawyer Thomas Zimmerman, isn’t enough, and doesn’t reimburse for those who travelled large distances – many from outside the US – to attend what he calls a “flop” of an event.
In a class-action lawsuit filed in the circuit court of Cook County, Illinois, yesterday, Zimmerman, of Chicago-based Zimmerman Law Offices, is seeking monetary damages to cover the travel expenses of lead plaintiff Jonathan Norton and a group of other festival attendees.
Zimmerman says connectivity problems were amplified by hours-long queues to get into the park.
“Attendees waited in line for hours to enter the fest, missing out on scheduled programming and exclusive in-game content available only to those with paid, activated wristbands at the fest,” reads the complaint. “The fest was plagued with internet connectivity issues related to overburdened cellular towers, in addition to Niantic’s own malfunctioning game server and software, rendering attendees unable to play the game.”
Zimmerman comments: “Festgoers were unable to complete timed in-game challenges to collect special rewards, or collect previously unavailable or rare Pokémon. Had my client [Norton] known that he would spend the majority of the event waiting in lines and unable to play the Pokémon Go game, he would have stayed in California instead of paying money to fly to Chicago to attend the fest.”
Budd: “Staggering support” for Give a Home gigs
Artist manager, festival promoter and former MMF chairman Stephen Budd has hailed the “staggering support” given by the music industry to his new Give a Home charity concert series, which last week announced its biggest name to date – Ed Sheeran – for an intimate living-room show in Washington DC.
Give a Home, part of Amnesty International’s I Welcome campaign, is a joint venture between Amnesty and promoter Sofar Sounds, with Budd and Sofar’s Tom Lovett as executive producers, and aims to show solidarity with refugees and raise funds for Amnesty through a mass day of concerts on 20 September. More than 500 events are lined up in 30+ countries; other performers include Billy Bragg, The National, Lianna La Havas, Rudimental, Zero 7, Frank Turner (pictured, right, with Budd), Hot Chip, Public Service Broadcasting, Daughter, Oh Wonder, Gregory Porter, Kate Tempest, with a further 150 due to be announced on 8 August.
All will perform in intimate, under-100-cap. venues across 60+ countries – typically houses or small commercial spaces, although Budd reveals one act will play at the top of the Shard, at 1,016ft Britain’s tallest building – with all proceeds from tickets going straight to Amnesty. Tickets are allocated on a lottery basis, with fans paying £5 (or $5, €5 or equivalent) per chance to win one, with the venue for each show kept secret until closer to the time.
Budd tells IQ he wants Give a Home, which follows his work with War Child on the Passport Back to the Bars charity shows, to tap into the “repoliticisation” of British youth evident in last month’s general election.
“What’s been lacking in the music industry recently is artists willing to get political, to put their balls on the line,” he explains. “But there’s definitely a scent in the air: In a subtle way, I think young people are getting more political.”
“The coverage might have died down, but these issues are still occurring”
Budd also hopes the concerts will “lower Amnesty’s age demographic” and garner more support for the charity from a younger audience. He praises the work of older ambassadors for Amnesty, such as Elton John and Sting, but says the aim of Give a Home “is bring it [the age] right down”.
To that end, many of the Give a Home shows will also be streamed live, via Vice and Facebook Live, with post-gig footage appearing on Vevo. Budd says “all the major [labels] have been helpful” in assisting Sofar/Amnesty with securing the necessary rights to do so, and the industry as a whole – including the management community, who he’s spent the best part of four months ringing around – has shown a “staggering support” of the initiative.
The refugee crisis – which once dominated headlines across the globe – has in 2017 largely faded from public attention, as the international press turns its attention to the likes of Isis, Turkey, France, the Brexit negotiations and the sorry state of American politics. This, says Budd, is why Give a Home, as well as initiatives such as I Welcome, are so crucial to putting the crisis back on the agenda.
“The coverage has died down, but these issues are still occurring,” he explains. “It’s a massive experiment, but Give a Home is about putting the world’s attention back on the crisis – and pressuring governments to do something about the 20 million refugees who still don’t have safe passage.”
First shows announced for 80-date Dio Returns tour
Eyellusion, the creator of the much talked-about hologram of the late Ronnie James Dio, has announced the initial run of dates for its first tour, Dio Returns: The World Tour.
The tour, which Eyellusion tells IQ will be produced in partnership with several local promoters, will make more than 80 stops in theatre-sized venues around the globe, kicking off in Finland on 30 November 2017.
The hologram, backed by Dio’s former band, will perform for the majority of the show, with a setlist that includes hits from across his career, including songs by Dio, Rainbow and Black Sabbath.
The initial European dates are:
- 30 November – The Circus, Helsinki
- 3 December – Fryshuset, Stockholm
- 4 December – Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo
- 6 December – Progresja, Warsaw
- 13 December – Bikini, Barcelona
- 15 December – Escenario Santander, Santander, Spain
- 17 December – Arelene Romane, Bucharest
- 20 December – Trix, Antwerp
- 21 December – 013, Tilburg, Netherlands
Dio Returns is expected to visit to the United States in spring 2018, and play festivals across the world next summer.
“We like to think of Ronnie smiling down as we continue to find new ways to share his music with all generations of fans”
“Working with Eyellusion over the past year and a half to turn our dream of this tour into a reality has been absolutely incredible,” comments Dio’s widow and former manager, Wendy Dio. “No one has ever been able to put together a show and tour like this, and we like to think of Ronnie smiling down as we continue to find new ways to share his music with all generations of fans.
“We cannot wait to be able to finally bring this incredible experience to Ronnie’s fans around the world.”
Eyellusion CEO and founder Jeff Puzzti adds: “We’ve really only given Dio fans a small taste of what they’re going to see on this tour. We are creating a completely new hologram of Ronnie, designing an amazing light show and continuing to add more dates around the world to make sure that as many fans as possible get an opportunity to take part in this experience.”
Eyellusion – which in addition to Wendy Dio is backed by veteran artist manager Todd Singerman and drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Cougar Mellencamp, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Meat Loaf, Smashing Pumpkins) – is currently raising funding to secure the rights for holograms of other artists “and finance projects and tours in its growing pipeline”.
Beatles’ Apple Corps win Shea Stadium lawsuit
A New York judge has thrown out a lawsuit by the estate of Sid Bernstein, the late promoter of the Beatles’ 1965 show at Shea Stadium, alleging the band’s Apple Corps company had infringed on its copyright by including footage from the concert in documentary film Eight Days a Week.
The suit – which was in October criticised as “frivolous” and “entirely meritless” by Apple Corps’ lawyers – sought ownership (or joint ownership) of the master tapes by Bernstein’s company, Sid Bernstein Presents, arguing that, “[w]ithout Sid, the mastermind of the event, this film would never have been made”.
Copyright to the film – originally shown in 1966 as The Beatles at Shea Stadium – was later acquired by Apple Corps and the band’s film-distribution outfit, Subafilms, from their management company, Nems Enterprises.
In a ruling yesterday (26 July), judge George B. Daniels, of the US district court for southern New York, said the company could not claim ownership of the footage as Bernstein did not himself film the concert, instead signing over the rights to do so to Nems.
“The relevant legal question is not the extent to which Bernstein contributed to or financed the 1965 concert,” reads the judgment. “Rather, it is the extent to which he ‘provided the impetus for’ and invested in a copyrightable work: eg the concert film.
“The complaint and relevant contracts clearly refute any such claim by Bernstein. By the express terms of the Nems-Bernstein contract, Bernstein had no control over the filming of the concert.”
Sid Bernstein Presents’ lawyer, Donald Curry, tells Reuters his client intends to appeal the decision.
Ken Lowson: Confessions of a supertout
Ken Lowson, the former ‘supertout’ who, as CEO of notorious ticket-harvesting operation Wiseguy Tickets, built a $25m secondary ticketing empire using one of the first-ever ticket bots, has spoken to IQ about his transformation from scourge of the industry to a campaigner against “corruption” in ticketing – and his belief that the ongoing war on bots is a distraction from a “dirty” business model that prevents fans from knowing how many tickets are put on sale.
In a phone call from the LA office of his new business, Tixfan, Lowson (pictured) – an energetic, sharp-minded obsessive-compulsive who gets by on a couple of hours sleep a night – speaks candidly about his troubled legal and personal history, the rise and fall of Wiseguy and his current efforts to clean up what he calls the “swamp” of the primary ticketing market.
By 2010, Wiseguy had bought and resold around 1.5m tickets and generated profits of more than $25m
The lightbulb moment
Though it eventually became (in)famous for its use of ticket-buying software, Wiseguy in the beginning was actually a rather traditional affair: a room full of ‘pullers’ – all of whom became known to Ticketmaster telesales staff – calling the company on, or just before, every major onsale and sweet-talking sales reps into reserving them a block of tickets. “We became über-good at begging,” jokes Lowson. “They used to tease that they couldn’t buy tickets for us, but then still bang the sequence of keys [to buy tickets] at exactly the moment the event we wanted went on sale. Begging was easy for people without shame…”
The introduction of widespread over-the-phone ticket sales by Ticketmaster – Wiseguy’s main target – was key to the growth of large-scale ticket touting, says Lowson, and transformed ticketing from a local/regional set-up (before, “you’d have brokers buying seats out the back door, [or later] bribing managers of record stores,” he explains) into a truly national phenomenon.
“All of a sudden a guy in California like me would be able to get tickets for row two at Madison Square Garden,” Lowson explains – tickets he could resell for a huge mark-up before the day was over.
However, what really propelled Wiseguy – Lowson’s fourth business, founded in 1999 after a spell selling employers’ liability insurance – into the big leagues was the move into online ticket buying – and, ultimately, the creation of ticket bots.
After trialling using software to automate some of the more tedious aspects of buying from Ticketmaster’s website – ticking checkboxes, filling in forms and the like – Lowson enlisted a 17-year-old Bulgarian developer to develop a program that could automatically respond to Ticketmaster’s captcha (the challenge-response test, usually in the form of ‘fuzzy’ or distorted letters, that aims to determine whether a user is human) to buy tickets faster than any mortal could.
Largely as a result of its use of bots, Wiseguy had by 2010 bought and resold around 1.5m tickets – what Lowson now calls his “franken-bot empire” – and generated profits of more than US$25 million. The business was based in plush new offices in LA’s Century City, where staff rubbed shoulders with bankers and financiers.
But, in the immortal words of the Alan Parsons Project, what goes up must come down – and by this time Wiseguy had attracted the attention of not just Ticketmaster, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“How can bots be responsible for the whole problem if only 20% of tickets are on general sale in the first place?”
The beginning of the end
The eventual demise of Wiseguy was set in motion by one Jason Nissen – a ticket broker who, in a twist of fate, now stands accused of conning investors out of $32m to prop up an elaborate ponzi scheme. “There was this Hannah Montana show,” Lowson recalls. “I’m sitting there with Disney and Ticketmaster, and I remember them talking about how they were only going to sell 5% of the tickets. I said, ‘Are you nuts? This is way too big. You’re going to cause major problems.’
“But Mike Leshinsky, Jason Nissen’s partner, goes ahead and lists 400 tickets he doesn’t have yet to a show in Kansas City. He doesn’t deliver, and the day of the show comes and there are 400 girls outside the venue crying.
“One of them turns out to be the daughter of a senator. They went to Nissen and he told them Wiseguy had promised the tickets. I’d never even met the guy.”
Wiseguy was in 2010 based in the “old AEG offices” in a skyscraper in Century City, Los Angeles, also home to a number of financial services firms. “We were on the 25th floor,” Lowson explains. “All of a sudden I’m getting raided.
“This was after the mortgage crisis in America – talk about a real crime! – and I’m like, ‘You’re here for the bankers, right?'”
The FBI agents made it clear that, no, they weren’t there for the bankers, and Lowson protested his innocence. “I was saying, ‘What did we do? All we do is buy tickets and resell them!’ I wasn’t very nice – I found out later that you don’t do that.”
When the Wiseguy case went to trial, the judge was sympathetic, says Lowson, telling him and business partners Joel Stevenson and Kristofer Kirsch that “‘I’m not putting these guys in jail.’ I’m like, ‘Great, can I leave?’, and they [prosecutors] say, ‘No, you don’t understand: we don’t lose.’”
Lowson ultimately took a plea bargain, pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud. “I had one Russian programmer who asked to be paid in Amazon vouchers,” he explains. “I asked my COO – my dad – and he said, ‘Don’t do it’, so I didn’t. They said there was a conspiracy [as I had the email asking to be paid in gift cards], and I’m like, ‘How am I supposed to be prevent people sending me emails?!’”
“This was after the mortgage crisis in America, and I’m like, ‘You’re here for the bankers, right?”
In a press release issued after Lowson’s guilty plea, the FBI said the three defendants had “acknowledged that ticket vendors were unwilling to sell tickets in large quantities for commercial resale” and so developed a network of “captcha bots” to impersonate individual visitors and allow them to “flood vendors’ computers at the exact moment that event tickets went on sale”.
The pleas, said US attorney Paul Fishman, proved that, “no matter what [Wiseguy] called their activities, they were criminal violations of federal law”.
Lowson, however, remains insistent the company at no times broke any laws, and argued as such in his court hearing in New Jersey. Much legal wrangling centred on whether Wiseguy had employed OCR, or optical character recognition, to circumvent Ticketmaster’s captchas. It hadn’t: Wiseguy’s bot simply downloaded and memorised every possible permutation of the then-static captcha, which were then typed in manually by Wiseguy employees.
As Lowson’s lawyer noted at his hearing, the “captcha was not hacked… It was responded to by a computer.” (“We had to pay a law firm $100,000 to say we never hacked Ticketmaster once,” adds Lowson.)
The black hole of Calcutta
Despite Lowson’s belief that the case against Wiseguy was flimsy and mainly concerned with making an example of the three defendants, he says he has “no hard feelings”, and that the demise of Wiseguy paved the way for him to do the “right thing” by music fans with Tixfan – as well as, finally, get sober.
“I started drinking at 14 or 15 years old,” he explains, “and found out that I was more normal drunk than I was sober. I drank every day and all day – right through to the raid by the Feds [FBI].”
The story of how he eventually got clean involves that old travellers’ cliché – spinning a globe and stopping it with one’s finger – and a faecal epiphany during the resulting trip to India. “I span a globe, found Calcutta and went there,” says Lowson. “It was in Calcutta that I had my last drink.
“I was at the bottom of the barrel after 27 years of drinking. After a four-day bender, I woke up and there was this naked guy taking a shit on the street right in front of me.
“A mental flash is all I remember… It was freaking Obi-Wan [Kenobi] speaking: ‘Ken, now you understand the power of the Force. Stop scalping the fan. You will find peace when you serve the fan. You’re tried and dying. You’re not meant for the dark side.’
“It was the best and most worthwhile moment of my life, and I knew everything had to change.”
When Lowson stopped drinking, he says, he learnt the difference between “good money and bad money”. “A couple of things happen when you’re sober: You get guilt and a conscience,” he continues. “I found it pretty hard to make money now that I had ethics.
“I put my remaining funds in my dad’s control. He said, ‘I’m 70 years old, you’re in your 40s; step up and be a man’. He said he’d take the money, but that the next business I started I had to do it the right way.
“These last few years have been a real learning experience. I’ve had to become resourceful and get used to not just buying my way out of problems.”
“A mental flash is all I remember… It was freaking Obi-Wan speaking: ‘You will find peace when you serve the fan’”
The “moment of disruption”
Tixfan, Lowson’s newest venture, launched at the beginning of 2016, following the dissolution of short-lived start-up Fair2Fan (“it wasn’t going anywhere,” says Lawson). Tixfan’s purpose is simple, he says: to get the maximum possible number of tickets into fans’ hands by introducing total transparency into the buying/selling process.
Lowson says he waited to go public with Tixfan until the introduction of the bill that became the Bots (Better Online Ticket Sales) Act, signed into law by former US president Barack Obama in December. “I was waiting for what I’d call a moment of disruption,” he explains, “and that was it.”
Echoing comments made by FanFair Alliance in the UK after the US bot ban – campaign manager Adam Webb noted a ban was “supported by companies who run secondary ticketing services” – Lowson says the reason the bill was passed so easily is that the secondary ticketers know ticket-buying software is not responsible for most large-scale ticket touting.
“How can bots be responsible for the whole problem if only 15–20% of tickets are on general sale in the first place?” he asks.
“My face was all over the news. I was held up as ‘the reason you can’t get tickets’. But I was a distraction.”
By empowering artists, venues and promoters to create a “level playing field” for ticket buyers by “show[ing] everyone exactly where the tickets are going”, Tixfan also hopes to raise awareness of the inner workings of the industry, which has so far been as resistant to disruption as “big oil, big tobacco [and] government”, says Lawson.
“There are good guys in the industry – the Radioheads, the Pearl Jams, who won’t take the bribe to screw their fans, as well as Bill Silva, [Louis] Messina, ATC and Brian Message; these guys don’t scalp – but it’s all so corrupted,” he continues. “I have to tell people to take the red pill – and don’t forget even Neo took a few days to accept his Matrix reality…”
In spite of his criticism of the Bots Act, Lowson says the passing of the law “let the genie out of the bottle” and further raised awareness of how ticketing operates in the minds of the media and general public.
“This secretive, Boardwalk Empire, 20th-century world can’t survive in the age of WikiLeaks,” he says. “If you want to scalp your own tickets, you’re not going to be able to get away with it. Is it worth the hit to your brand?” (As IQ spoke to Lawson, Live Nation Italy remains under investigation after a TV programme exposed its passing of tickets directly to secondary site Viagogo.)
“If we can clean up the ticket swamp, maybe we can fix the world”
What next, then, for Tixfan – which is so far financed entirely with Lowson’s own cash? Seed funding factors into his future plans, he says, but the first order is a business is finding a major client with whom to demonstrate the capabilities of the platform.
“The first round [of enquiries] was all about exposure; the second is the selection of a proof-of-concept client,” he explains. “Someone’s going to win big, and it’s going to be this client – they’re going to be branded as a superhero. So whoever’s got the biggest balls: step up, please!”
Ultimately, Lowson says, he wants to bring an end to a system in which “artist and fan have no part of the supply and demand” of tickets, and make artists – and himself – more money in the process. “My mission statement is to take $10bn from scalpers, give $9bn to artists and keep $1bn for myself,” he says. (In the same breath, however, Lowson says he is “big believer in altruism” and reveals he is launching a new, Tixfan-backed charity, Big Four – before quickly catching himself, as if temporarily possessed by the Ken Lowson of old, “going too far” with what he calls “the sober humbleness”. “I know people are gonna call me a communist, or a Robin Hood figure, but I’m really a capitalist pig,” he jokes.)
“It’s a corrupt system, and corruption is like a cancer – you’ve just got to cut it out.”
Between Tixfan and Big Four (which aims to combat the world’s ‘big four’ wants: nourishment, shelter, medicine and education), Lowson is upbeat about the future – and the potential for transparent, tout-free ticketing, backed by a charitable foundation, to effect change even beyond live music.
“I’m compelled now by what’s the right thing, what’s correct,” he explains. “If I take a step back I’m going to die.
“We want to create a level playing field for fans. We want to give them the knowledge, to show them exactly where the tickets are going. If we can clean up the ticket swamp… maybe we can fix the world.”
Record 350,000 for Exit’s summer of love
Exit welcomed a record number of people to its 2017 festivals, with a combined 350,000 festivalgoers from more than 90 countries attending Sea Star in Croatia, Revolution in Romania, Sea Dance in Montenegro and Exit Festival proper in Serbia.
Exit’s ‘Summer of Love 2017’ – which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original – kicked off on 25–28 May with Sea Star Festival, a new dance music event in Umag, Croatia, announced in December and headlined by The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and Paul Kalkbrenner’s Back to the Future. More than 50,000 people attended, having to increase capacity three times to cope with the demand.
The next event, Revolution (1–3 June) in Timisoara, Romania, broke its own attendance record with 20,000 festivalgoers, while Exit itself (5–9 July) welcomed a record 215,000 people to the Petrovaradin fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia. Highlights of Exit Festival included headline sets from The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Years & Years, Hardwell and Rag’n’Bone Man; an opening ceremony that included speeches from motivational speaker Nick Vujicic and the environmental movement Standing Rock; and a performance of iconic ’60s musical Hair.
There will be “another exciting theme” tying together next year’s festivals, says Exit
Summer of Love 2017 wrapped up on the shore of the Adriatic with the fourth Sea Dance Festival on 13, 14 and 15 July, headlined by Fatboy Slim, John Newman and Swan.
Those who wanted to visit more than one festival could invest in what Exit calls the “biggest holiday offer in its history”: The ‘1 ticket = 4 festivals’ deal, which offered early buyers of an Exit festival ticket (priced at €99) complimentary entry to one of the three other events.
There will be “another exciting theme” tying together next year’s festivals, says Exit. Exit Festival 2018 will take place from 12 to 15 July.
On 18 May 2014, guests at the Billboard Music Awards were wowed by what was undoubtedly the performance of a ‘lifetime’ by one of the world’s greatest musical talents. Why ‘undoubtedly’? Because the artist in question had died five years previously. Michael Jackson’s posthumous holographic ‘performance’ of ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ is one of the more high-profile examples of new holographic technology being used to create lifelike virtual performances by artists who do not even need to be alive (let alone physically onstage).
Holographic performances represent one strand in a wide array of technological innovations (spanning virtual reality, augmented reality and wearable devices) all aimed at reinventing the live entertainment experience. Global live entertainment revenues have been steadily increasing since 2010, with Technavio predicting that global live ticketing sales will reach nearly $25 billion (€22bn) for concerts and over $60bn (€54bn) for events by 2021.
These innovations have the potential to accelerate that growth dramatically, not least because they make it possible to simultaneously recreate an event in almost any location. It is now possible for a single live event to generate a venue’s worth of ticket sales multiple times over. Moreover, venues are no longer constrained by their physical capacity since, thanks to VR headsets, spectators can get the same ‘front-row’ experience from their living rooms as if they were attending the event in person.
The application of these technologies to music concerts is self-evident, but major sporting event organisers (and even sports teams themselves) are beginning to explore the new possibilities that are opening up in this field. Over the last few years, a number of major sports events have been live streamed in VR, including the US Open golf tournament and the 2016 Six Nations Championship. In addition, major sports broadcasters are beginning to partner up with VR/AR technology companies so as to cash in on these potentially lucrative opportunities (a good example is NextVR’s five-year partnership with Fox Sports).
Concurrently, we are witnessing the rise of the ‘smart stadium,’ where real-time data on spectators and sports personalities is combined with technology, not only to enhance the action on the field (through devices which, for example, allow spectators to feel through the bottom of their seats the heartbeat of a player about to take a penalty kick) but also to improve the end-to-end spectator experience by making it easier to find your seat, or pick the shortest queue at the hot-dog stand (thereby eliminating traditional points of friction for spectators).
These exciting technological developments raise a variety of new and interesting issues from a commercial and legal perspective.
It is now possible for a single live event to generate a venue’s worth of ticket sales multiple times over
On the commercial side, for example, advertisers and broadcasters are grappling with how traditional sponsorship/advertising models should apply to simultaneous multi-venue or VR-streamed events, and how exclusivity can be enforced. Is it possible that, in the future, the same live performance by a holographic Elvis Presley could be sponsored by Coca-Cola for a stadium in New York, but by Pepsi in a concert hall in Mumbai? Practically speaking, in most existing venues, sponsorship and branding are visually optimised for physical and TV audiences (as opposed to VR audiences) – clearly, the VR format creates new opportunities for advertisers and sponsors, but existing sponsors of major events may also see some of the sponsorship rights they have traditionally been afforded being eroded away by new entrants and products.
On the legal side, it is not immediately obvious what intellectual property rights are at play when it comes to holographic performances and, more importantly, who owns them, particularly if the performance is by an artist who is deceased. Another interesting legal question is where the legal responsibility sits for providing ‘virtual seats’ to spectators. If you have paid a large sum of money for a virtual, front-row seat and there is a connectivity issue during the stream, are you entitled to a refund? And if so, from whom? In addition, there are the usual data protection considerations to be taken into account when collecting, using and passing on real-time personal data as part of the live experience.
It is clear that this myriad of opportunities will be seized by companies at all stages of the live entertainment value chain as they seek to explore new sources of revenue growth from their brands and fan bases. This is particularly true in a world where live events represent an increasingly compelling way of monetising a digital entertainment or media relationship in the physical world.